Red Sox Memories: Comparing careers of David Ortiz, Ted Williams

Oct 2, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; A fan holds a sign prior to pregame ceremonies honoring Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) prior to a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 2, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; A fan holds a sign prior to pregame ceremonies honoring Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) prior to a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

Ted Williams and David Ortiz are the two greatest stars in Boston Red Sox history.  There are some similarities and differences – here is a look at a few.

Sesame Street will have a catchy tune to teach children the concept of how some things are the same and some are different. This applies to the two greatest stars in Boston Red Sox history. How were they the same? Different? I have seen both play and there are similarities and differences. Here are a few.

David Ortiz and Ted Williams had a very similar beginning and both are Hispanic. Yes – Williams’ mother was Mexican – a detail that Williams kept hidden. Ortiz is a native of the great talent pipeline from the Dominican Republic. Neither grew up wrapped in riches.

Physically, both Williams and Ortiz were similar and in the case of Williams, it took a few years for his slender 6’3” frame to fill out. The early years in the Pacific Coast League, American Association and finally the American League the name “Splendid Splinter” applied.

More from David Ortiz

Ortiz is a large man. Like Williams, in his early years, you see a different Papi. With the Twins, Ortiz is somewhat lean in appearance. No Williams like a bean pole, but not the robust Papi of later years.

Williams was a prolific user of profane language with a mastery of taking every swear word and placing them in exotic combinations. I happen to have had personal experience with a very non-filtered Williams. The same applies to Ortiz and just think 2013 in a very public venue.

Their generosity is well-known. Williams was highly secretive about his generosity and time given especially to children. This was not done for publicity, but simply because that is who he was. With Ortiz, the same applies with special emphasis on using his star power for charity. This is a different media drive age and it is far more difficult to be reclusive about your charitable endeavors.

Ortiz was not considered a star prospect attaining 84th in Baseball America’s 1998 pre-season profiles. This continued on his early baseball trials as Ortiz was traded by the Mariners and then released by the Twins. Then there was Williams.

In 1939 Williams was coming off a triple crown season at Minneapolis and prior to that was considered one of the top if not the top prospect in baseball. As a 17-year-old playing for the San Diego Padres in the fast paced Pacific Coast League Williams natural hitting ability already was drawing rave reviews. That would not change.

The arrival of Williams in Boston was an event in 1939. And TSW did not disappoint. Where Ortiz took several seasons to get acclimated to MLB baseball,  Williams was a star the day he walked on the field. A .327 average, 31 home runs, and a league-leading 145 RBI. That was a mere taste of what was to come.

When David Ortiz was 28-years-old, he made his first All-Star team. By that age, Williams had already hit .406 (.411 with today’s rules), been an All-Star game hero, a World War II veteran, Most Valuable Player, Triple Crown winner and considered the best hitter of his era.

Ortiz has an incredible ability to interact with the media – a pure natural talent whose personality comes through in interviews and product advertisement. In the era of Williams, the prime source was newspapers and the Williams relationship with the press was notoriously negative. It may even have cost Williams an MVP Award when Williams was left off ballots.

Umpires brought out the worst in Ortiz. Has there ever been a strike that Ortiz actually thought was a strike? Glares, questioning, hand gestures and on and on. Ortiz was a real drama queen with an at-bat. Conversely, Williams never questioned a call that was public. Never glanced back. No shouts from the dugout. Umpires even had to be warned about Williams persistent questioning if umpires on pitchers they had seen. They would tell TSW what he wanted to know. That stopped.

Williams would certainly show emotion when he got a big hit especially a home run. His exuberant jaunt after hitting a game-winning home run in the 1941 All-Star game show that, but showing up a pitcher? In that day it was not done and was a recipe for a high and tight fastball.

Ortiz, you could time with a sundial when he rounded the bases – usually with a bat flip and a stare at the pitcher tossed in. Different era, but certainly a different approach. Williams actually hustled around the bases.

More from David Ortiz

Boston had a love-hate relationship with Williams. The fans could be brutal and the press often gave them ammunition – real or imagined. The traditional tip of the cap became a rare item, but taunts to the press box were routine including spitting. Williams often had equal parts disdain for fans and the press. Ortiz is just the opposite. Papi has a ready-made excuse machine with the fans over any possible negativity. Ortiz is idolized.

The big blotch of Williams career is clutch hitting. The fact remains that his number of opportunities just were not there with the formidable roadblock of the Yankees consistently consigning the Red Sox to missing out. In his only, World Series Williams did nothing of merit and the same applies to a one-game playoff in 1948 and a year-end series to the Yankees in 1949 that cost Boston a WS appearance.

Is Ortiz the greatest clutch hitter in Boston history? Maybe it should be the greatest clutch hitter in baseball history? When the Yankees shut down Williams in 1949, Ortiz was a wrecking crew in 2004 and that became the norm and not the exception.

Statistics are a baseball driver and Williams certainly exceeds Ortiz. I wrote an article on just how Williams stats would have looked if he had not spent almost five seasons in the military. What is interesting about their careers is the end. Amazing last season for both.

Next: Where David Ortiz ranks in franchise, MLB history

Ortiz led the league in doubles (48), OPS (1.021), Slugging (.620) and RBI (127) as his farewell gift.  Williams didn’t qualify for the league leader in 1960, but he slugged .645, had a 1.096 OPS, hit 29 home runs and batted .316 in just 310 at-bats.

There is absolutely no doubt that Ortiz and Williams are the two most memorable players in Red Sox history.